Well, as the holiday has started, here are some lessons that I am learning or teaching.
I made scones, dreadfully good scones, for the first time today, thanks to a birthday gift 11 months ago of a cookbook, put together by friends here. What a precious gift! Stephanie contributed the scone recipe, with notes of her own added to the original she’d found in a book (I think). I still don’t like cutting together butter and flour/powder, but it was worth it, they were indeed “Dreamy Cream Scones,” even without anything to spread on them!
I also learned what happens when the wiring of your Christmas tree lights comes loose. I’ve fixed and re-fixed it over two or three Christmases, but finally it went “BANG!” and blew the fuse for that part of the apartment, so I stopped messing with it and unplugged it, thankful it didn’t also blow out the wireless, which is plugged into the same power strip. (Side-note: Did you know there isn’t such a thing as an extension cord here? Just power strips of various lengths. I found something LIKE an extension cord at the store today, but the end where you connect it to your appliance was just bare wires.)
Those colored lights, before they blew, allowed me to finally understand what C. S. Lewis was talking about in The Last Battle when he describes the new Narnia that is heaven, more real and deep than the old “reality.” He writes:
“It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different – deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more.”
I never understood what he meant by this. To me, the mirror reflection would be less, not more. But as I turned to close the dining room blinds one evening shortly after setting up my Christmas tree, I caught a glimpse of the multi-colored lights reflected, and a sudden happy longing filled me – something like Lewis’ joy. It came to me that the happy feeling was because the sight of Christmas lights coming from the window is a part of the holiday that I don’t ordinarily get here – the neighbors don’t decorate and even if they wanted to, they don’t have large lawns and trees and roofs to deck with lights, we live in apartments! But for my growing-up years and several grown-up ones as well, I would see Christmas lights out the window for 1/12 of the year. As soon as I realized what it was, it faded, but I immediately thought of the above passage and what I’d recently been reading in Surprised by Joy, and it all fit together. I may or may not again live in a similar situation to the one in which I grew up – on a street where people decorate their yards and houses with lights – but to me it’s a feeling of home and it caused a sharp pang, first of happiness, then of bittersweet longing. Not exactly Lewis’ joy, since I can pin it on some earthly object? Or is the sense of home, of celebration, of life and color, a more shallow “reality” of the deeper reflection? (Deep musings aside, the language of that last sentence is a big part of my problem with Lewis’ description – THIS reality is but a shallow, oft-distorted reflection of the true, eternal reality; calling that real-reality a reflection of this temporary one just doesn’t make sense.)
On a different note, I took my class to a baking shop called “Coco’s Kitchen” for a field trip on Thursday – a great end-of-school trip! We made Christmas cookies. The dough the shop provided was plain (I don’t think it even had vanilla, which to me is “plain,” it was just butter-sugar-flour-egg dough), brown, and green – that is, with cocoa mixed in and with matcha (green tea powder) mixed in. It made cute cookies, though brighter colors might have been more elementary-ish and a sweeter flavor than tea might have been advisable. *I* liked the way they looked, though! And the kids had a lot of fun. Then after the cookies were finished baking, we stopped at The Book Nook (the foreign language bookstore) and used some of the money we earned selling truffles to buy board books for the Swallows’ Nest Children’s Home. The elementary is supporting that wonderful establishment in various ways this year, and hopefully for years to come. I hope that the children learned about cooking AND about the joy of giving. If possible, we’ll take another short trip early in January to pick up some other items from their wish-list.
And I learned a bit about math thanks to ViHart’s YouTube channel. Her “Doodling in Math Class” videos are … I can’t even find a word for them. Beautiful? Fascinating? Amazing? Enlightening? Inspiring? All of the above. She’s got some interests I definitely share, but she’s taken them to a level I have not. SO amazing. Check it out. Thanks for recommending her, John Green!
Finally, I’ll be posting photos here and on Facebook shortly on how to carry things in a piece of cloth. It’s something I figured out on my own, but only even thought to try because I knew the Japanese did it and we happened to have a lovely dark blue cloth from Japan specifically FOR that at home, back when I lived with my folks. That cloth resides with me now… 🙂 but as I need to work on my quilt and watch a movie now, I’ll have to take photos of the process later.